WATSONVILLE — St. Francis High incoming senior Chase Watkins gave his verbal commitment to the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo baseball program for the 2018-19 season, he confirmed with the Pajaronian on Monday.
The two-sport star and MLB prospect announced his commitment through Twitter on Saturday, tweeting “Excited and blessed to commit to play baseball at Cal Poly to further my educational and baseball career!!”
On Monday, Watkins said he had been eagerly waiting to announce his choice.
“I’ve wanted to commit for weeks now,” said Watkins, who explained that his family and the university were working out the terms of the scholarship in the days leading up to his commitment. “It was refreshing, for sure. I could finally take a breath of fresh air and have a fun senior year.”
A 6-foot-4 lefty with a nasty array of pitches, Watkins was highly recruited after starring at the NorCal World Series earlier this summer. A dozen schools had been in contact with Watkins over the summer, including UC Santa Barbara, University of San Diego, San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton, but he said Cal Poly, which he first visited late last school year, was the perfect fit in both baseball and academics.
“I was really feeling it in my heart,” said Watkins, who plans to major in business. “It felt right.”
The son of former NCAA Division I athletes Kim (Swimming, Stanford) and Brad (Football, Washington State), Watkins had a breakout season for the Sharks on the mound and at the plate as a junior. He posted a 1.23 earned run average and recorded 57 strikeouts, while also batting .423 with six doubles, four home runs, 18 scored runs and 22 RBIs.
And that all happened in just a little more than half a season.
Watkins missed the first month of the spring baseball because he was busy helping the school’s basketball team win the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Division V championship and reach the state title game in the winter. An explosive athlete on the basketball court who can throw down massive slams and shut down the opponent’s best scorer, Watkins averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Sharks, who also won Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and Central Coast Section championships.
He said he plans to play basketball in his senior year.
“There’s no way I’d miss it,” Watkins said.
Watkins will play for head coach Larry Lee in the Big West Conference. The Mustangs went 28-28 overall and finished third in conference last season.
St. Francis head baseball coach Kenny Nakagawa said the Mustangs picked up a hard worker and fierce competitor.
“He’s 6-foot-4 and he’s a lefty,” Nakagawa said. “I think he’s one of the best left-handers at the high school level and I think his competitiveness is something you don’t find in everyone.”
Watkins could have held out for other offers and taken his chance of wowing programs in the upcoming spring.
Nakagawa said Watkins made the right decision with the timing of his commitment. Over the last few seasons, Nakagawa has had four players make their verbal commitment during fall. The coach said all four have gone on to have spectacular senior years, especially Ruben Ibarra, who is entering his freshman season at San Jose State this fall.
“Ruben got that weight off his shoulders and that was the best Ruben that we’ve had,” Nakagawa said. “His numbers might have been down a bit but in terms of his leadership, work ethic, everything, he was at his best…I think the same will happen with Chase.”
Ibarra said he can’t wait to see what a clear-minded Watkins will look like on both the basketball court and baseball diamond.
“He has a whole lot of potential and he’s going to reach it because of his work ethic,” Ibarra said. “I felt like a big weight was off my chest when I made my decision and I could just go out and work on myself after it.”
Watkins said he wants to add a few more pounds to his rangy frame and also work on the mental aspect of the game, too, during his final year in high school.
Armed with an 88-MPH fastball, a slicing slider and a deceptive change-up, Watkins was not only getting looks from D-I college programs after the NorCal World Series but pro scouts, too. If everything goes well next spring, Watkins could be forced to decide between a college education or a chance at a pro career. He said that’s not on his mind at the moment.
“I worked really hard to get to where I’m at right now and I didn’t really focus on getting scholarship offers — I just went out and played,” Watkins said. “I figure if I do the same this time, too, everything will figure itself out like last time.”